By James Melton
When you were about ten or twelve years old, you were taught to memorize the multiplication table. You did so, and to this day you have in your mind the BASIC knowledge that you need to multiply numbers. You know very well that 8x7=56. You do not have to figure it up, because you just know it. You've made that fact a part of your own being. It goes with you always. You'll have no trouble figuring 8x70, 80x7, 70x80, 7x800, or 700x8, because you've learned the BASICS.
Well, the Bible works the same way. When studying God's word, there are several laws that one should keep in mind to serve as a study foundation. A good knowledge of these laws will prove helpful to you time and time again.
Actually, there's no need for you to interpret God's word. He doesn't speak in unknown tongues. He means exactly what He says, as He says it, where He says it. Always take the Bible LITERALLY, unless it can't possibly be literal. In such cases, it may be figurative.
For example, Jesus said in John 10, "I am the door". Well, we know that's a figurative door, because literal doors do not talk. Always take God's word literally, unless it's impossible.
Always notice the context of a passage before making application. Read the surrounding passages to understand the subject matter.
For example, no one today earns their salvation by enduring unto the end (Mat. 24:13). The context of Matthew 24:13 is the "great tribulation" (vs. 21). Millions of people are living a lie today because, they have failed to check the context of scriptural quotations made by their leaders.
All Scripture has at least three applications: Historical, Doctrinal, and Spiritual.
Never make application of Scripture until a correct meaning has been firmly established with Scripture.
Get in the good habit of taking note of "first mentions" in the Bible. Often times God will use the first mention of a word, phrase, or even a number, to establish a certain association that you'll need to remember throughout His word.
For example, the first mention of the word "life" in the Bible is Genesis 1:20. Here life comes from water. You'll need that information when you get to Isaiah 48:1, Proverbs 5:15-18, and you'll REALLY need it in John 3:5. A water birth is a physical child birth.
To keep carnal and lazy people from learning the Book, God chooses to reveal truth to us in bits and pieces like a puzzle. He seldom addresses a subject in it's entirety in one place. He'll introduce a doctrine, and then He'll wait maybe two hundred chapters before telling you anything else about it! Sometimes He'll repeat the same thing over and over just for emphasis. Scripture with Scripture is the only way to learn God's word (Isa. 28:9-13; I Cor. 2:13).
According to II Timothy 2:15, God's word has set divisions that must be respected if we are to understand Scripture.
There are various dispensations in which God dispenses to man certain duties, and these duties can differ greatly from one dispensation to the next. We just mentioned one when considering the law of context.
Like it or not, God is a divider. He has divided the Bible, the sexes, the races, the animals, the heavens, the spirit world, the underworld, the two natures in Christians, the first and second coming of Christ, and about a million more things. God's word must be rightly divided. Contradictions, confusion, and cults exist only because people refuse to rightly divide the word.
Never limit Scripture to only one meaning. Sometimes a portion of Scripture can refer to something near at hand, and then also have a future fulfillment. Remember, God is eternal. He knew all of the future before any of the Bible was written. You can expect to see many double and even triple references in the Bible.
For example, Hosea 11:1 says, "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt." In the immediate context this refers to the nation of Israel being God's "son", as we are also told in Exodus 4:22. However, a DUEL reference is found in Matthew 2:15, where Jesus' coming back from Egypt is said to be a fulfillment of Hosea 11:1.
Types and Foreshadows
The Bible is filled with all sorts of types and foreshadows which can make Bible reading and study very interesting.
For example, the Old Testament offers many types of the Lord Jesus Christ. Able is a type of Christ in that he offered to God an acceptable sacrifice, and also that he was murdered by wicked hands. The sun is a type of Christ, Who is the light of the world. The Ark is a type of Christ in many ways. The offerings and the feasts in Leviticus all picture certain truths about Jesus Christ in His three offices as Prophet, Priest, and King. Moses and Joshua, great leaders of God's people, are types of Christ. Many of the kings of Israel, such as David, Solomon, Josiah, and Asa, typify Christ in various ways.
There are also many other types, like types of the church, salvation, the second coming, the tribulation, the millennial kingdom, the Antichrist, and word of God. Remember to look for and to study types in the Bible for they reveal to us the wisdom of a Master Designer.
Numerology (Read this post for more)
Another interesting design in God's word is His unique way of attaching meanings to various numbers. Developing a basic knowledge of what a number is generally associated with can be very helpful.
One is unity. Two is division. Three is trinity. Some say four is the earth (?). Five is death. Six is man. Seven is perfection, or completeness. Eight is a new beginning. Nine is fruitfulness. Ten is the Gentile number. Eleven is a mystery to me. Twelve is Israel's number. Thirteen is rebellion.
Take thirteen for example. The negative overtones of this number are not superstitious; they're Scriptural. The first thirteen in the Bible is Genesis 1:13. That just happens to be the first verse that doesn't use God's name. The first occurrence of the actual word is Genesis 14:4 and rebellion is the context. The main Antichrist chapter is Revelation 13. Mark 7:21 speaks of thirteen evils in the heart of man. "Judas Iscariot" has thirteen letters. Nimrod, a type of Antichrist, was the thirteenth from Adam (I Chr. 1). The Old Testament has thirty-nine books (3x13), and it ends with a curse. There's a curse in Galatians 3:13. "Roman Catholic" has thirteen letters. In Luke 4, Satan quoted from Psalm 91, but he omitted verse thirteen. In Revelation 17:5 (MYSTERY BABYLON...)there are thirteen block capital words consisting of sixty-five letters (5x13). The thing just never ends. Remember, numbers have meaning in the Bible.